Quartet envoy Tony Blair is involved in intensive talks with Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu about putting together a package of economic gestures to keep
the Palestinians directly engaged with Israel in low-level talks in
Blair has met at least five times with Netanyahu over the past
two weeks, including twice on Wednesday.
“A package is being worked on,”
one official in the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed. “The idea is not
for Israeli unilateral confidence-building measures. Rather, we are ready [to
act] within the framework of a peace process that is working for mutual
confidence measures. We are looking at options and are preparing a
According to the official, the matters under consideration “are
primarily economic issues.”
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in
Jordan in January on five occasions. The Palestinians are expected to decide by
the middle of the month whether to continue this channel of talks.
Danin, who headed Blair’s office in Jerusalem from 2008 to 2010 and today serves
as one of his advisers, told The Jerusalem Post it was important, in moving the
process forward, for the Palestinians to see that the talks with Israel did
something to benefit them.
This was especially true, he said, after the
swap for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, when the Palestinian perception
was that the Hamas method brought results – the return of 1,000 prisoners –
while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s way of negotiating did
Danin, who is a fellow at Washington’s Council on Foreign Relations
and was in Israel attending the Herzliya Conference, said it would be helpful if
the PA were given greater tools to build statehood institutions and further
develop its economy.
“There are a whole range of things that could be
done to show the desire to help out,” he said regarding the measures Israel
could put in a package to keep the Palestinians at the negotiating table.
For example, he said, Israel could give them
greater access in developing agriculture in Area C, something that would help
the Palestinian economy and show Israel was truly interested in supporting the
bottomup approach to peace-making.
Another example, he said, would be to
free up a 3-kilometer access road that is holding up the development of Rawabi,
the new Palestinian city going up 30 km. north of Ramallah. The road
connecting Rawabi to the outskirts of Ramallah would be built on land slated for
“You want there to be a solution to the refugee
problem in the West Bank and Gaza,” he said. “Isn’t the building of a
Palestinian city there in everyone’s interest? You have almost a billion-dollar
investment there, but because of a 3-km. road, something that has been
brought up at the highest levels, it isn’t moving forward.”
Accords divided the West Bank into three areas of civil and security control.
Area A is under Palestinian control, Area B under Palestinian administrative
control but Israeli military control, and Area C – which represents some 62
percent of the territory – under Israeli control.
Danin said Blair was
working on many fronts to help keep the diplomatic process and state-building
“But the state-building can’t work in a vacuum,” he
said. “The bottom-up process [of peace-making] is not sustainable in the
absence of political hope.”
Asked what reciprocal gestures the
Palestinians were making toward Israel, Danin said two things should be kept in
mind. The first was that the Palestinians were engaging in low-level talks, even
though they said they would not talk unless there was a complete settlement
And the second was that the Palestinians, for the first time, had
a “security force unified under a civilian command, not a rag-tag group of
militias with Kalashnikovs, but a disciplined force, not just providing law and
order, but actually taking Palestinian terrorists and incarcerating them –
providing security to Palestinians and by extension to Israelis.
has to be recognized,” he said, adding that many in the IDF and the Shin Bet
(Israel Security Agency) had already done so.